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Constitutional Law

Obama Signs Patriot Act Extension with Autopen; OLC Opinion Found No Presentment Clause Problems

Posted May 27, 2011 11:16 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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President Obama used an automatic pen to sign a four-year extension of the Patriot Act only minutes before it was set to expire at midnight Thursday.

Obama ordered the autopen signature because he was in France attending an international summit, report the Los Angeles Times and the newspaper’s Top of the Ticket blog. The law authorizes expanded government surveillance powers in national security investigations.

A 2005 legal opinion (PDF) by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said the president does not need to sign legislation personally, report ABC News and the Odd Clauses Blog. The opinion said the presentment clause is not violated when the president directs another person to affix his signature by autopen.

The Patriot Act extension was passed despite objections of two Democratic senators who said the Justice Department is secretly interpreting the law to allow surveillance activities that would stun and anger the American public, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, “The Obama administration declined to explain what the senators were talking about.”

Hat tip to Pat’s Papers.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Deal Is Reached to Extend Patriot Act’s Surveillance Provisions”

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